Children from refugee and migrant backgrounds encounter unique and complex barriers upon resettlement in Australia and it’s challenging for them, and their parents and guardians, to engage with their new school community. The risk of disengagement is real, which is why Alice Wojcik and Bobby Allen founded the Refugee Migrant Children Centre (RMCC).
RMCC received a $15,000 grant from FFV for its Side by Side program at Glengala Primary School. Here, 72 % of students are from non-English speaking backgrounds, and only 82% have an attendance level of 90% or more.
The program engaged 32 recently resettled children aged 5–7, and their parents, in weekly sessions. Teachers and the School’s Wellbeing Team were also involved, so barriers experienced by both families and the school could be broken down.
Side by Side addresses the barriers faced by parents / guardians to participate in the school community and their children’s education, as well as tackles the barriers teachers and the school face in engaging newly arrived families from varying cultural backgrounds.
The children in need of further support with their developmental process were identified by the school and in all, 32 students (along with their parents) joined the sessions every week. Two members from the School’s Wellbeing Team were also involved, as well as other teachers who rotated to visit the program.
During the sessions, the RMCC Team ran interactive, collaborative and fun project-based activities such as “Superheroes from our community”, “Let’s make playground toys” and “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
Alice said the participants in the program have more confidence to engage with others, ask questions, problem solve, play and work harmoniously with attention and focus.
“As the program is facilitated in an inclusive and safe environment, the children are showing much more confidence.
“With hands on activities, especially science-based activities, not only they do the activities with enthusiasm and keenness, they tackle any obstacles with confidence and don’t shy away from the possibility of making a mistake and missing out on learning.”
Teachers have also shared that within the classroom, students are participating more, speaking up when they need help and have formed new positive friendships. Further, the parents who join their children weekly in the Side by Side program have an avenue to learn about the education system in Australia and ways to engage and be part of the education of their children.
See what parents and participants had to say about the program:
“Many of us were reluctant to be involved with our children’s school or what they are studying because of the level of our English. But through the program we have gained confidence to be in touch with the school despite our limited language.” - Mum (Zai)
“We didn’t know many people but through the program we got connected to school community, met other parents and made new friends. I feel confident when RMCC works with my children because RMCC staff and mentors give time to my children. It not only helps my children mentally, but also physically. My two children now have more confidence. They are positive about life even though we have uncertainty about our life in Australia. They talk positively about their future.” - Mum (Fir)
“Seeing young mentors who have had similar experience as refugees currently studying at university and/or working is like seeing my future now.” - Participant
“I’ve learnt to communicate better. Talking with adult mentors every week has helped me to speak out what’s on my mind and express my feelings. Especially most of the mentors are from diverse background and have gone through similar experience as us. We can relate to them they can relate to us.” - Participant
“When my kids join the program after school, I feel relieved and have faith that RMCC will look after the needs of my children; they attend to their homework, help them socially in school and community life; listen to them; all done in a fun way that help.” - Dad